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Almost Two-Thirds of Older Adults Have Hearing Loss

Last Updated: March 28, 2011.

Nearly two-thirds of older Americans experience hearing loss, and it is most strongly associated with age, gender, and race, according to a study published online Feb. 27 in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.

MONDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly two-thirds of older Americans experience hearing loss, and it is most strongly associated with age, gender, and race, according to a study published online Feb. 27 in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.

Frank R. Lin, M.D., Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues investigated the prevalence of hearing loss among 717 adults aged 70 years and older, as well as its associative factors and hearing aid use. They analyzed data from the 2005 to 2006 cycle of the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES). Audiometry results, information on hearing aid use, noise exposure, medical history, and demographics were assessed. Hearing loss was defined as a speech-frequency pure-tone average with 25 dB threshold in the better ear.

The researchers found that the prevalence of hearing loss was 63.1 percent. After adjustment for confounders, the odds of hearing loss were associated with increased age and male gender, whereas black race protected against hearing loss (odds ratio, 0.32). Forty percent of adults with moderate hearing loss used hearing aids; whereas, among those with mild hearing loss, 3.4 percent used hearing aids.

"Hearing loss is prevalent in nearly two-thirds of older adults ≥70 years in the U.S. population. Additional research is needed to determine the epidemiologic and physiologic basis for the protective effect of black race against hearing loss and to determine the role of hearing aids in those with a mild hearing loss," the authors write.

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